It’s the end of something. You’ve been at the beach resort for a week and now you’re flying back to work. You’ve been on your college campus for 4 years and now your all-embracing microcosm implodes. You’re moving to another burg. You’re changing jobs, or is it breaking ties with your darling? Letting your children grow up?
It’s the end of something. You scan your entourage and there’s one friend who strikes you. He’s the one whose cheery soul you’d like to run off with. He also goes through endings, because isn’t that how we repay life for the gift of living?
Unlike you, however, he never exhales your wistfulness and homesickness for something past.
Perhaps he has not heart. Perhaps his heart is made of tiny blocks of Prozac. Perhaps he’s concealed it. He exists, and so must have feelings. But he doesn’t show that nostalgia like others. He’s sublimated it somehow. You wonder how.
His imperturbability has always reassured you. For the love of your loved ones, maybe you can also ignore the bite of nostalgia – in public. Because others have done the same for you.
And if we all do that, all pretend for the others, will it go away? Will we help them? Will we smother it? Will it go away for them? For us?
No. Your friend is not suppressing his emotions. Because he knows that holding them in will just make them spill into the grooves of his mind. Infect it all. He is not venting them either. Because he knows that by indulging in sadness, all he’ll be getting used to is indulging, a pathetic and ineffective process: he won’t run out of tears by crying more.
So what does our friend do? How does he sublimate his nostalgia instead of suppressing or indulging?
He only allows himself to be nostalgic about the future. His future.
He knows that he cannot and ought not rid himself of the sentimentality he feels right now because it’s an overpowering emotion, but knows that he can adjust what he’s sentimental about.
Here’s his advice to you.
Feel nostalgic about the things to come. Realize that wherever you go, you’ll be living, moving forward in time. And every second of your life, you’re creating new moments that you’ll end up pining for when you move on to the following seconds.
Feel nostalgic about every step, as often as possible. Make the increments as minute as you can. Because that step will soon be stepped on and passed in space and time, but not yet. When you look back at the steps you’ve trodden, you’re a powerless observer. When you envision yourself several steps in the vanguard, looking back at your current self, you’ll long for it all. This lost present.
You, flying back with the tan or burn. You, spending the last night in your college dorm, you, the New Yorker moving to the Bay, you, the slothful HaagenDazsivore mewling and fattening over your break up: you’d better feel sad. For goodness’ sake, feel sad because that’s what we humans dedicate so much time to. But you really should be getting upset about tomorrow. Because tomorrow is begging to become today.
Close those damp eyes. Visualize your future honeymoon in the Maldives, your future road trips, your future kids, your future professional coups, your future nights of enraptured fidelity, your future nights of enraptured infidelity, your future dog panting at the twist of your keys, your future cat blanketing your family movie nights, your future camping weekends, your future pleasant surprises, your future three star meals and drunken dance nights and friends and ex’s and grandchildren and hamsters.
You, whoever you are, have many steps to climb. One or two or one thousand Empire States. Copious steps left to enjoy and regret. Because eventually, everyone leaves everything behind. So far, that’s been the deal for being alive.
Become aware of those millions of sights, tastes, sensations, sounds and smells that are fated to channel through your living body. They’re not yours to keep. Treat yourself to the trite experience of a dying man. Watch all those images flicker and dance before you.
And then be thankful and sparked. Because one day they’ll stream away at your wake, but today they stream in your direction.